How a WhatsApp bot got famous and evolved as the Brazilian WeChat and conversational commerce platform


WhatsApp is the most downloaded and loved application in Brazil. Brazilians are so dependent on it, that the sight of it being taken offline for 48 hours imposed by a judge order caused national wide outcry.

As an entrepreneur I knew I could make money with WhatsApp in some way.

To start with I was developing a food ordering platform which was almost ready for launch. When I started visiting some restaurants to convince them to use my apps, the overall response was a big NO, even although they wouldn’t have to pay a penny in advance. Why? They were claiming that no one would download and use a whole new app, and the reasoning behind it was unanimous: they all told me their customers were asking for a way to order using WhatsApp.

I know, I know, I did it all wrong: I didn’t validate the market before doing everything. I first created the whole polished product and then I went to the market, while I should’ve first made a prototype/MVC. Anyway I decided I wouldn’t trash months of hard work (native apps and a huge custom e-commerce API). But deep on my mind I knew these guys were right, but I still didn’t know what to do. Until one day I saw a huge building painted with the WhatsApp logo calling “text us right now via zapzap and schedule an appointment (1 — unfortunately I didn’t take a pic of it, 2 — zapzap is how Brazilians call WhatsApp and 3 — of course it was all manual scheduling). It was a medical building. That was the moment I was really sure I had to do something.

A WhatsApp bot is born

I invested roughly 3 months creating an unofficial WhatsApp API (since WhatsApp doesn’t offer official integration and I didn’t like that available unofficial APIs are under the oppressive GPL3 license, so I had to make my own) and after additional 45 days I integrated it with my e-commerce API.

A fully automated WhatsApp e-commerce bot was ready. What initially started as an API for food ordering evolved as a general use e-commerce messaging bot. And I really mean general use. You can customize everything from a pizza, choose shoes’ sizes, choose multiple payment orders, find delivery rates by location and the list goes on by simple WhatsApp messaging.

On the same day that I finished it I managed, without any effort (as opposed to my food delivery app), to install it in a pizzeria. With just a single non promoted Facebook post, the pizzeria accounted for 31 orders just in the first day through the bot.

Considering the overnight success in that store, I came up with a name in matter of seconds (Fred, part of my name, Alfred) and quickly made a unedited muted video demonstrating all the features of the bot, published it on my personal YouTube account, and then I sent an informal press release to the biggest Brazilian tech portals — as you will see, luckily in the released I mentioned a waiting list, where I provided a MailChimp signup link. The two biggest ones replied within 30 minutes and within an additional 30 minutes the articles were online. Then other big sites published additional articles. And the biggest one did an additional interview and published a more detailed article.

Everyone loved it

Everything exploded. I have touched the most loved tool in Brazil. I got comments and emails from all over the country stating that “I am a genius” to “I’ll be the next Brazilian billionaire” and “I was the only tech visionary in a tumultuous political and economical year”. My cell phone and my personal WhatsApp were flooding. The MailChimp waiting list went from 0 to more than a thousand subscribers in 8 hours. Big profile entrepreneurs were calling me to schedule meetings. Big companies as well. For one day, I was on the Brazilian Portuguese Google’s first page for the term WhatsApp. Yes, millions of searches pointed to one of the articles about me.

On the front page of a big online entrepreneurship school

Banishment and Terms of Use

After a whole month full of meetings, emails and long calls, I had to sit down to make a web dashboard so everyone could manage the e-commerce and the bot, so far I had only that very first store running the bot and I did all the data entry manually. Ok, in the middle of the dashboard development, that bot was banned. A new cell phone number was bought, and it was banned again.

I panicked. I couldn’t build a business around an unofficial API, which was against WhatsApp’s terms of use and which could be completely taken down anytime. How I was going to serve big companies and hundreds in the waiting list with such an out of my control piece of software that could collapse at any time?

The possibility of creating a business around that bot was canceled. Fortunately I validated the need for conversational commerce in Brazil, I made a name as the creator of chat automation and I made a network of important contacts, and a list of clients. And I knew about Silicon Valley’s rush to create the ocidental WeChat: chat as a platform. Also the the trending conversational commerce by Chris Messina: chat bots as the solution for everything.

I got obsessed about both: chat as a platform and chat bots.

Meet Fred: the Brazilian WeChat and conversational commerce platform

Alpha footage

Yes, everything evolved THAT fast.

Fred is a chat platform.

Fred is a micro-applications and micro-services platform embedded into chats.

Fred is a build it yourself messaging bot platform.

Fred is a text center, the call center 2.0.

Fred is a payment platform.

And you can have all of them a single conversation. Fred’s mission is to provide any kind of customer — company — brand relationship in a single platform. Yes, everything that WeChat can do, plus messaging bots, payments and documents. The platform of the platforms. The app of the apps.

The beginning of the end of most apps and sites. But most important, the beginning of the end of the call center. Period.

UPDATED: We got funded and we are growing really fast!!! —